Janet Jay is a cyborg.
No, she’s not RoboCop or Darth Vader. But she shares a similarity with those characters: Her all-too-human body has been upgraded with a machine.
A next-generation implant deep in Jay’s back stimulates her spinal cord, overriding her body’s pain signals to give her some relief from the back pain that has plagued her for years.
In an article on Popular Science’s website, Jay writes about her experience with pain and the next-generation way she’s finding relief.
She is hardly alone in her suffering. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, an estimated 25.3 million Americans, or 11.2 percent of U.S. adults, experience chronic pain. It can interfere with work and home life and leave patients debilitated, disabled and depressed. So it makes sense that Jay jumped at the chance to experience long-term pain relief with the help of a spinal-cord stimulator.
Jay lays out the hows and whys of spinal stimulation, and she paints a vivid picture of a life in agony, a journey that has included skeptical doctors, plenty of painkillers and unanswered questions about the future.
She also describes her path to spinal stimulation, how the device works with the body to short-circuit pain, and the many roadblocks to relief that patients face.
“Even for me, the battle is not over,” Jay writes. “Since this surgery I’ve actually had another disc herniate, complicating everything. My spine isn’t cured, and I still hurt all the time. But the pain is far more controlled, and I can function much better at my current level of discomfort.”
As the human and financial costs of the opioid crisis rise, spinal stimulation may become more popular, even though it’s expensive. Jay says she was lucky: Her insurance covered much of the six-figure bill for the procedure.